I’ve always found it endearing that God, in His infinite wisdom, used a guy with a stutter to help deliver the Israelites and made an adulterer with a felony record into a king. At some of my lowest points, theirs were the stories I clung to, the idea that God could use weakness to redeem failure.
What I didn’t realize was that these aren’t the exceptions. They’re simply a couple of the most popular examples of His standard operating procedure. Moses and David weren’t meant to soothe us on our worst days but to be a mirror for us. Every single day.
The Bible is a collection of unlikely people used to magnify God’s goodness and power.
Stories of smallness aren’t simply in the Bible; they arethe Bible. It’s stacked with imagery about children and mustard seeds, remnants and narrow gates, sparrows and lambs, a boy who defeated a giant, and a tiny infant redeemer.
In this manual for living, humility is the favored tool. To touch the expansiveness of God, we’ve got to befriend the ways we come up short. Our communion and the health of our community depend on our ability to see ourselves in condemned Rahab, abandoned Joseph, and worn-out, wary Sarah.
Growing up, I was always the runty, sickly kid. I kind of remember it, in that hazy way childhood appears to a middle-ager — ghostlike, gauzy.
What I can say for sure is that I’ve always been inexplicably scrawny. Year after year, doctors would stare me down, squint at my chart, then have me tested for type 2 diabetes. Or scoliosis. Or digestive issues. Or obscure genetic diseases. My immune system wasn’t exactly exemplary, but there wasn’t technically anything wrong with me. Even so, they persisted.
At the height of MTV’s We Are the World campaign, a couple of my second-grade classmates identified me as a good replacement punch line for starvation jokes. (Have grace. We were busy trading scratch-and-sniff stickers and tucking our sweaters into our jeans. We didn’t yet have a firm grip on third-world poverty or our place in its context, and our compassion was a work in progress.)
This string-bean pattern continued to startling effect, reaching its fever pitch in middle school, or as I remember it, the Dreaded Year of the Eights, when during the course of the eighth grade, I grew eight inches, graduated to a size eight-and-a-half shoe, and my eight-year-old sister could beat me up.
Needless to say, I have mixed feelings about being weak.
On the one hand, weakness has always been an undeniable part of me. I couldn’t change it if I tried. On the other hand, I’ve always seen it as a detriment and learned to creatively overcompensate.
While I’d never try to arm wrestle you, I learned how to throw down in a verbal spar. I became strong in other ways. I was the smart one. The mature one. The achieving one.
The first third of my life was devoted to proving my strength. I don’t need your help.
But the truth is, weakness is a simple fact of life. It’s what we all are, at our core.
We are weak. We need God, and we need His people. We need hope. We are but humans, in need of dark chocolate and a nap. We need strength to rise up and face our seven-year-old who still has strong urges and incomprehensible plans when it comes to household items such as soap, Band-Aids, rolls of tape, and any and all watertight containers. We need patience for the husband who “literally didn’t notice” the laundry he stepped over to climb into bed. We need courage to walk fresh-picked blueberries across the street to the new neighbors who give us the side-eye, then shut the door a beat too quickly. (Maybe it’s just me.)
What I’m beginning to see, though, is that God doesn’t fix my weakness by making me strong. He becomes my strength in my perpetual weakness. He takes over. Constantly. He swoops in, ruffles my hair, and says not to worry, then charges to the top of the mountain I’m facing — the king of every hill I’ve ever stood upon with shaking knees. I am weak, and He is strong. He’s all the strength I need, and my weakness doesn’t have to flee in order for His presence to reign.
God is enchanted by my frailty.
It’s why I need Him.
It’s why He showed up and never stops.
Amen, Shannan, Amen!
Terry Ellen says
What a lovely encouragement this morning when yes indeed, I’m feeling weak and totally without value to my Father. The old struggles return when I thought I’d conquered all, ah but they drive us to the word and to Him, priceless!
Lora Leftwich says
My weakness is different than yours and yet I immediately connected with you and read your post with an appetite for how to see it for what it was, intended for strength. In my weakness, He is forever strong; Thank you
Kelli McKnight says
Spot on Shannan! Your Falling Free words just continue to bless my days and encourage to better thinking/living because they are proving to be the real deal.
Shannan, it is no surprise to me that you share this excerpt today, as this is one of the pages I spent the most time on in your book and your posts always seem to be on “the same page” with my heart. When I first read this in your book, I lost my breath with the line “What I’m beginning to see, though, is that God doesn’t fix my weakness by making me strong. He becomes my strength in my perpetual weakness.” and was in tears by the end of the section. Your words are salve to my soul, then and now.
Right before I picked up your book that day, I had been writing a devotional on the verse “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7. My heart was rejoicing in my weakness and suffering right as your words entered, like an unexpected friend arriving to a joyous party, fitting in perfectly, amping up the celebration, bringing a gift I didn’t yet know I needed.
Today, your words fall on my heart in a similar place. I need to let Him ruffle my hair and charge up my mountain every.single.day. You breathe life into my faith. Thank you.
Shannan Martin says
I’m so grateful you shared that verse with me. It’s beautiful, and I needed the reminder today.
So so good, I’m 2/3 of the way through your book and loving it. My life is such a mess I wouldn’t know where to begin, but I’m encouraged by you and our Saviour. Thank you for the “pray as you go” app too! Keep serving Him, what a joy to as we serve His body around us.